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The Spoilers

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Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each have serious spoilers in their campaigns, on the verge of destroying their hopes for the presidency.

For Barack, the spoiler is his ex-pastor, the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. For Hillary, it is her husband, the ex-President Bill Clinton.

Bill's bizarre behavior during the Clinton campaign has been much commented upon. Alienating black voters with his "race card" remarks, finger-wagging at the media, making disastrous off-camera asides, this uncharacteristic conduct is turning a lot of former Clinton lovers into Bill-boreds. There seems to be a growing consensus that Hillary should take her husband home and lock him in the kitchen with a dozen peanut butter sandwiches and a six-pack of diet Coke.

Whatever the unconscious motives behind Bill's destructive behavior, the way the Reverend Wright has been carrying on seems consciously designed to destroy Obama. In addition to his "God damn America" speech, delivered before Obama began to run for President, Wright has been cutting up in ways that almost seem designed to alienate the majority of Americans from their first serious black candidate-keynoting the Detroit NAACP with a speech ridiculing Jack Kennedy's Boston accent, reminding us of the similarity between Barack's and Bin-Laden's first names, crowing to Bill Moyers that he is a "pastor" rather than a "politician" (obviously intended as negative campaigning towards Obama who showed a lot more Christian charity towards this supposed man of faith than the pastor did towards him).

Wright's behavior is clearly motivated by wounded pride, complicated by the irresistible temptation to perform black power charades before a national TV audience. Bill's behavior reflects his outrage over the thought that Hillary's losses are a rejection of his legacy. Wright may not be a politician, but he sure is a performer, improvising spoken and musical impersonations with self-infatuated, self-satisfied glee. Bill may be a supportive husband, but he is demonstrating that his own personality compulsions supersede his wife's ambitions. In both cases, American character is undermining American politics, and individual egos are eclipsing the needs of the country.

Obama refused to repudiate Wright because he wanted to believe that a person running for president could be true to himself and remain an authentic human being. The newly-packaged beer-guzzling Scranton housewife, Hillary Clinton, has been around politics long enough to know that what wins votes in America is inauthenticity and sham. The spoilers know that the more extravagantly they perform the more often their theatrics will be rerun on the media.

And we watch all of this nightly, spoilers ourselves.